Taking art to raise funds

Angela Swinbourne admiring the art work on display at the exhibition
Angela Swinbourne admiring the art work on display at the exhibition

PEOPLE affected by mental health issues have been drawing on their experiences to set up a fundraising exhibition.

Hartlepool-based Artrium, which uses art to improve mental health and wellbeing, has opened an art gallery in a unit in the town’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

The gallery space, in the former Barratts shoe shop, features various pieces of eye-catching art all created by members, volunteers and supporters of the Artrium, in Park Road.

Pieces on show are up for sale in a bid to raise money for and raise awareness of Artrium, which had its funding cut from Hartlepool Borough Council last year despite a rise in the number of users following economic-related issues including job cuts.

Angela Swinbourne, 35, from the town’s Catcote Road, turned to Artrium after suffering from depression when she was made redundant from her job as neighbourhood management officer with Peterlee Town Council two years ago.

She is now recovered and a volunteer fundraiser for Artrium.

The mother-of-one, who is planning to add some of her work to the exhibition, said: “The idea is to raise money to keep Artrium going as we lost our funding from the council last year.

“I wanted to give something back as Artrium really helped me out.

“Mental health issues are on the rise in the current economic climate and we want to let people know there is something there for them.

“The amount of people who come to us and say ‘I’m not arty, I can’t do anything’ and then end up creating something fantastic is great.”

The exhibition opened on Saturday and there has already been a lot of interest.

The artwork features regional landmarks, including The Angel of the North and a scene from Barnard Castle, as well as Mexican-inspired ‘mummified’ mannequins.

Hartlepool and East Durham Mind has taken up a corner of the gallery to promote a new innovative instant psychological support service, which starts at the end of September.

Artrium project manager Colin Thompson said: “We have 372 people on our books, with two or three joining every week.

“There has been a lot of admiration for the exhibition.”

He thanked Angela and other volunteers Malcolm Hare, Lorna Davison and Sandra Johnston for overseeing the project, as well as shopping centre management for their help.

The exhibition is open from 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday for the next four weeks, with plans to have it running longer.